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EQUINOX GRAPHICS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY EQUINOX GRAPHICS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Radioactive alpha decay. Animation of a nucleus of polonium-218 decaying to lead-214 by emitting an alpha particle. An alpha particle is a high-energy helium nucleus, composed of two protons (red) and two neutrons (yellow). Alpha particles can only travel a short distance before being stopped, but are very damaging to body tissues within range, due to their relatively high mass. Polonium-218 has a half life of 3.1 minutes, and forms part of the decay chain of naturally-occurring uranium-238.
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